On Saturday, Kalamazoo glass artists and Bronson Hospital staff will make beads for child cancer patients. They’re called “Journey Beads,” and each one represents a type of treatment or therapy the kids have gone through.
Maddux Hescock is seven years old and has rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of cancer that affects the muscles attached to his bones. Maddux’s parents drive him to Bronson from their home in Battle Creek at least once a week. Patients get a small red bead for every five blood draws, Maddux says he has seven of those.
Maddux’s dad, Josiah, says the beads give Maddux something to look forward to after every poke, scan, or dose of chemo.
“No child should have to go through cancer. So every prize, every reward, every pleasant thing that they can experience along the way is well deserved,” he says.
In her spare time, Dawn Bennett-Daily makes the beads at the West Michigan Glass Arts Center, where she’s vice president. The glass arts center partnered with Bronson to create the program.
Bennett-Daily says each treatment bead has to have a certain color or shape, but other than that, the artists are free to use their creativity. This makes each string of beads unique. Bennett-Daily says she likes making the spinal tap beads best.
“It’s going to be a clear bead and I’m just going to put some orange and green little teeny polka dots on it," she says. "So something that’s kind of cheerful. You can leave it clear, but I prefer to put a little color on it.”
For Bennett-Daily, the program hits close to home. She was diagnosed with uterine cancer three years ago. Just one day after she found out, doctors had to rush her into surgery to remove the tumor. Bennett-Daily says she was terrified.
“I got home that day and I went through my house. I started thinking about, ‘Oh I need to give this to this person. I need to give this to this person.’ It was like I need to get rid of this stuff right away just in case I didn’t make it through the surgery which was going to happen right away," she says.
"So I know that as a kid it must be ten times worse. Because, you know, as an adult I can comprehend a little bit more of what’s going on. And for the kids I think it’s a little bit more unknown.”
Donna Moyer is a nurse in pediatrics at Bronson. She says the beads help child cancer patients to understand their treatment. Moyer says it also gives kids something to talk about when friends and family ask how they’re doing.
“Kids of any age seem to have a difficult time asking their friends about their cancer treatment. They don’t know what to say. Relatives and friends don’t know what to say," she says. "So this kind of gives them a tangible place to start the conversation. So they can explain what this bead was for and in that way communicate their experience.”
Maddux Hescock is one of about 70 child cancer patients in the Journey Beads program at Bronson.
“One of the things that I hope for Maddux when this is all done is he knows how strong he is, how much he’s capable of enduring and overcoming,” says Maddux's dad, Josiah.
The West Michigan Glass Art Center in Kalamazoo will be holding a public bead making day Saturday night from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
You have to attend classes at the center to help make the beads, but anyone can help the artists with quality control--cleaning the beads and make sure there are no sharp edges that could cut the children. You can also donate to the cause through the Bronson Health Foundation.